« PreviousContinue »
thoughtful; and when you have once given the
The foregoing remarks, although addressed to
It is the part of wisdom, my brethren, to profit
The means of obtaining the rudiments of a com-
free schools established among us, are undoubtedly superior to those generally enjoyed by the European mechanic. But for obtaining a knowledge of scientific principles, the more advanced state of the arts, the greater number of scientific teachers, and the facility and cheapness with which scientific books and apparatus can be procured, must give to the European, advantages greater than we can, at present, be presumed to possess.
In the principal cities of Great Britain, the Mechanics have recently directed their attention towards the instruction of the working classes in the principles of mechanical science by means of “ Mechanical institutions,” at which lectures have been given on all subjects connected with the mechanic arts. These lectures have been delivered by professors of ability, selected and paid by the mechanics themselves; and have been numerously attended. Some notice of the rise and progress of these institutions, may not be improper on this occasion.
The first scientific institution established in Great Britain, by the mechanics themselves, was in the city of Glasgow. An institution had been founded, many years previously, by the will of Professor Anderson, and bearing his name, for the purpose of instructing the middle and lower classes of the people on scientific subjects. By paying a small fee, persons were admitted to hear lectures ; illustrated when necessary, by experiments on most branches of science. There was a library, several models, a variety of apparatus, and a museum connected with the establishment. No branch of the “ Andersonian Institution,” however, was exclusively devoted to the instruction of mechanics, in those branches of knowledge, which are of especial use to their professional pursuits, till the year 1800, when Dr. George Birkbeck, a respectable physician, and man of science, commenced gratuitously a series of lectures on mechanical philosophy and chemistry.
For several years these lectures were continued ; they were also greatly extended, and were very well frequented. Dr. Birkbeck having left the institution, a disagreement arose between the mechanics and their friends, and the government of the institution; in consequence of which, the mechanics seceded. In the year 1821-2, the mechanics of Glasgow, and their friends, formed a school, called “The Glasgow Mechanics’ Institution.” In November 1823, there were 600 subscribers to this institution ;-and it continues in a most flourishing condition. Institutions of a similar kind have since been established at Aberdeen, Manchester, Leeds, and Liverpool. There is a school of arts at Edinburgh for the instruction of mechanics, differing in some respects from those above mentioned.
In November 1823, a public meeting was held at the Crown-and-Anchor Tavern in London, for the purpose of establishing a London Mechanics’ InstiTUTION, at which upwards of two thousand persons were present, consisting principally of those for whose benefit the institution was intended. In December following, the officers of the institution were elected. Dr. Birkbeck was chosen president.
The object of the institution is stated to be the instruction of the members in the principles of the arts they practise, and in the various branches of useful science : the means by which that object was to be obtained were,
Ist. The voluntary association of Mechanics and others, and the payment of a small annual or quarterly sum each.
23. Donations of money, books, specimens, implements, models and apparatus.
3d. A library of reference, a circulating library, and reading room.
4th. A museum of machines, models, minerals, and natural history.
5th. Lectures on natural and experimental philosophy, practical mechanics, astronomy, chemistry, literature, and the arts.
6th. Elementary schools for teaching arithmetic, algebra, geometry and trigonometry, and the different applications, particularly to perspective, architecture, mensuration, and navigation.
7th. An experimental workshop and laboratory.
In February of the present year, the institution commenced its operations ;-an inaugural address was delivered by the president, and an introductory lecture, on the elementary principles of mechanics, by professor Millington, one of the vice-presidents of the institution.
There were at that time, about 1300 subscribers to this institution, and the number has since increased.
In his inaugural address, commenting upon the laws against the emigration of artisans, Dr. Birkbeck, who appears to be a man of truly liberal and philanthropic feelings, makes the following eloquent allusion to our western hemisphere.
“ Far, however, be it from me to advocate the retention within the circumference of our island, of the arts and sciences, which are our best possessions, and our brightest ornaments.
ornaments. Over the western world, now in the sublime career of independence, calling for their aid, I would have them liberally diffused: thus in part atoning for those wrongs which followed in the train of the genius and enterprise of Columbus.
“ Let European arts and European science, freely cross the western main, to enrich the gay savannahs and the vast mountain plains, in regions distinguished alike by their sublimity and inexhaustible fertility, until all that can be wafted by the winds, or that can be impelled by the all-conquering steam,
except European vices, and European warriors, may be found
“Where Andes, giant of the Western star,
These sentiments, I am sure, will be reciprocated by every friend of liberty, and of the arts, in every part of the world. How unlike is this spirit, to that which actuated the French Government, when an attempt was recently made in the city of Lyons, to form an institution similar to those I have mentioned: this distinguished member of the Holy ALLIANCE,' by its express command, put a stop, to the project; not choosing that any institution, even of a scientific character, should be established within its domains, without its sanction, and its immediate control.*
In witnessing the progress of science and the arts abroad, and the noble institutions for their advancement, may we not derive useful hints for our improvement ? And may we not flatter ourselves, that we shall receive the countenance and encouragement of those who by their wealth, talents, and influence in society, have it in their power to render us essential service ? Every patriot, every friend to the arts, must wish us success in our laudable undertaking : he must be sensible that whatever contributes to the wealth, independence, and happiness of the nation, is of sufficient importance to engage bis serious attention.
Let us view, then, the advantage to be derived from encouraging intelligent and skilful artisans and mechanics. The following remarks from an able writert are to the point. “The most powerful
* See Edinburgh Scotsman. The author is aware that France has produced many mer of science, and that the government of that pation has, (particularly during the reign of Bonaparte,) extended a liberal patronage to the arts : but the rigid system of its police, and its severe censorship of the press, bave deprived the citizens of that fertile country of many of the privileges common to those of Great Britain and the United States.